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Country Bookshop staffer Bill Maher on Forsaken: “Has heart and wisdom of To Kill a Mockingbird”

Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken receives a beautiful endorsement from bookseller Bill Maher at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC. With poetic simplicity, he calls Forsaken “haunting, riveting. Has heart and wisdom of To Kill a Mockingbird.” The photo he sent to us is a lagniappe.

Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr. will read from and sign copies of his new novel at The Country Bookshop on February 11, 2016 at 5:30pm.

AJC, Richmond Times-Dispatch review Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.: “An unforgettable debut novel”

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr. had an auspicious publishing debut this week, with stellar reviews from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in addition to being featured in O. Henry Magazine and The Charlotte Observer. The outstanding notices herald Ross Howell Jr.’s author tour; he will stop at dozens of bookstores and libraries throughout the South, and will be a guest presenter at several book festivals, beginning February 4.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch calls Forsaken, “An example of historical fiction at its best — and proof that fiction sometimes can reveal truth to greater effect than journalism or history. Forsaken generates anger, and pity, and ultimately hope. And it will leave you in awe of Howell’s deft hand in rendering a story of the benighted past that finds resonance in the present.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds, “A story unearthed from old newspapers, a searching look at the facts, eloquent testimony and behind-the-scenes evidence: Forsaken is the fair trial Virginia Christian never had, in which the innocent are justly treated, the guilty finally charged. Ross Howell Jr. captures the atmosphere of early 20th-century Hampton, Virginia, from courthouse to countryside, as vividly as he does its seething, racial inequities. An unforgettable debut novel.”

O. Henry Magazine’s Bookshelf column featured a profile of Ross Howell Jr. In the piece Howell recalls growing up in segregated Floyd County, Virginia. He talks about coming across the case of Virginia Christian while researching another crime, and discovering the dissertation of Dr. Derryn Moten, now acting chair of the history department at Alabama State University. An excerpt from Forsaken follows the interview with Howell.

The Charlotte Observer features a quote from novelist Jill McCorkle, who says that in Forsaken Howell has “vividly recreated a sensational crime firmly rooted in history.”

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution excerpts Crooked Letter i essay by James Villanueva for Personal Journeys

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinJames Villanueva’s essay “The Gathering” from Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, an anthology recently published by NewSouth Books, was excerpted in the “Personal Journeys” section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this Sunday. “Personal Journeys” features “stories that define” the Southern region and “connect our community.”

The chapter from Crooked Letter i recounts Villanueva’s Texas childhood memory of visiting an uncle dying of AIDS to celebrate his life, and his later experience coming out to his family. Editor Suzanne Van Atten called “The Gathering” “a touching story about how much strength it takes to be true to oneself and the riches to be gained as a result.”

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

New novel Forsaken named 2016 Okra Pick by Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.The historical novel Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr., due for release on February 1, has been named a Winter 2016 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. The Picks recognize “the best in forthcoming Southern lit, according to the people who would know.” Selections are made from titles nominated by employees of independent bookstores throughout the region. Featured titles highlight up-and-coming authors whose books are likely to become bestsellers.

Forsaken tells the story of the sensational crime committed by Virginia Christian, a young black girl who, in 1912 Virginia, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. She was the only juvenile to be executed in the history of the state. News of her crime made national headlines. Many rallied around her cause. Included among them was a young newspaperman, Charlie Mears, whose own life is indelibly altered when he crosses the color line in reporting on her case.

2016 promises to be an eventful year for Forsaken, a book SIBA says should be on every bookstore’s “To Be Read” list!

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

NPR’s Michel Martin talks with Rev. Graetz, panelists on 60th anniversary of Montgomery Bus Boycott

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 by Brian Seidman

A White Preacher's Message on Race and Reconciliation by Rev. Robert GraetzOn the occasion of the recent 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, NPR’s Michel Martin held an important and far-reaching panel discussion at the historical Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, with a live audience and also aired live on NPR. Panelists included historian Taylor Branch, Alabama State University president Gwendolyn Boyd, Ebony Howard of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Reverend Bob Graetz, pastor of Trinity Lutheran church during the boycott and author of A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation (NewSouth Books, 2006).

Martin noted that the Bus Boycott anniversary comes at a time in American history where the public has seen numerous acts of violence against African Americans both in mass shootings and police brutality. At the same time she pointed out that reactions to those events suggest rising activism and the birth of a new civil rights movement.

Branch pointed out similar contradictions at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. “The country was in a tremendous fix over the perpetual contradiction between slavery and American freedom. You had just had the Brown decision a year before in which eight white justices had said segregation was incompatible with American freedom. But nothing really had happened yet, except that the South had risen up against the ruling. And just a few months before the bus boycotts started, you had the Emmett Till lynching — a young man, roughly the same age as many of the activists who would later start the sit-ins and freedom rides, born in 1940, lynched at 14-years-old. … America was idealistic and yet raw and evasive on race.”

Branch and President Boyd also discussed the various origins of the Bus Boycott, including that Alabama State University teacher JoAnn Robinson and other female teachers used school resources to print flyers advertising the boycott, an act that risked their jobs, and also that the NAACP’s E. D. Nixon gathered local pastors to discuss the boycott, and these initiatives ultimately merged into the year-long movement. Boyd also discussed Rosa Parks’s role as NAACP secretary and how she and civil rights lawyer Fred Gray had discussed beforehand the need for a test case toward desegregating Montgomery buses, which Gray also relates in his memoir Bus Ride to Justice.

The panel discussion moved to issues of access to education for African American students, and Martin also brought in Karen Jones, credited as founder of the Black Lives Matter movement in Montgomery. Howard described a recent court case that she won banning the use of pepper spray to punish predominantly African American students in Birmingham, AL schools.

Rev. Graetz answered a number of questions submitted on Twitter during the event. One person asked how whites can work toward equality “without falling into white savior mindset,” to which Graetz advised, “Start where you are, and … look around and see what the situation is, and then you begin to ask yourself what can I do about it? What can I do to help this situation become improved. Oftentimes it will be some very minor thing … there are so many little things we can do.”

To a Twitter comment that there’s an absence of clergy leadership in current civil rights efforts, Graetz agreed and told that “regularly in the meetings of the board of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Dr. King would stand before us and say to us, ‘Some of us in this room are going to die. If you can’t deal with that, you shouldn’t be here.’ … Nobody ever left. I find it difficult to believe that in a comparable meeting of clergy today, when someone would pose that question to us … I doubt if we’d have the same response. I don’t think we’re ready to make that total commitment and total sacrifice as was the case in the people 60 years ago.”

As Martin concluded the discussion, Rev. Graetz offered this final thought: E. D. Nixon, the “grandfather for the movement … used to say we’re not doing this for ourselves, were doing this for the children coming on. That’s got to be our focus.”

The full discussion is available for listening from NPR. Rev. Robert Graetz’s memoir, A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, is available in print and ebook from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson on gratefulness during a time of uncertainty

Friday, December 11th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Rheta Grimsley JohnsonPopular NewSouth author and nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson favors us with a striking and poignant read given the recent events in San Bernardino. In “Thankful for Small Moments of Peace,” the column illustrates Johnson’s determination to celebrate a restful and restorative Thanksgiving among friends. She lists many things for which she gives thanks, from Bradford pears through books read and music enjoyed.

Johnson points out “the world’s problems are best solved with old friends around a warm fire.” As the holiday season continues through Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza, giving thanks for moments of peace is a good practice for all to continue.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s books Poor Man’s Provence, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, and Hank Hung the Moon . . . And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book seller.

Civil rights pioneer Fred Gray shares podium with Hillary Clinton at Montgomery Bus Boycott commemorative event

Monday, December 7th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System by Fred GrayFred Gray was among the civil rights pioneers honored by a new state historical marker to be unveiled at Alabama State University. Attorney Gray spoke at a ceremony on December 1 at 3:00 pm, joining ASU President Gwendoyn Boyd and Joe L. Reed. The ceremony in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott honored ASU alumni and employees who played a major role in the effort.

Later, Attorney Gray spoke at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, preceding special guest Hillary Clinton, whom he called “the next president of the United States.”

Fred Gray’s memoir Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Civil rights attorney Fred Gray honored by Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

Friday, October 23rd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred GrayNewSouth Books salutes distinguished civil rights attorney Fred Gray, author of Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray, who received a Phoenix Award presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. recently.

Mr. Gray received the Annual Legislative Conference Co-Chairs Award, given each year to an individual who has championed civil rights and social justice issues. In reviewing award candidates, the ALC award co-chairs also seek a person who has significantly impacted on the African-American community. This year’s award co-chairs were United States House Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Terri Sewell.


Photographs courtesy Imagine Photography (top) and 609 Multi Media (bottom).

In 1955, at the age of 24, Fred Gray was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, beginning the modern day civil rights movement and his own long and distinguished career as a civil rights attorney and activist. The ALC Co-Chair’s Phoenix Award is a fitting recognition of Mr. Gray’s groundbreaking work challenging racial discrimination.

Bus Ride to Justice is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Halley wins Moonbeam Awards Silver Medal

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Halley by Faye GibbonsNewSouth Books is delighted to announce that Halley by Faye Gibbons has won the Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction in the ninth Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.

The awards are presented by Independent Publisher and the Jenkins Group. They feature gold, silver, and bronze award levels in 42 subject categories. The awards were created to celebrate children’s books and lifelong learning. Winners have included books from large publishers, university presses, and independents such as NewSouth Books. Judges for the award favor books of social relevance with strong content and original writing. Earlier this year, Halley was also named a Jefferson Cup Honor Book by the Virginia Library Association. Congratulations, Faye!

Halley by Faye Gibbons wins Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction in the ninth Moonbeam Children's Book Awards

Halley is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Dorothy Allison foreword to Crooked Letter i featured in Huffington Post

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 by Suzanne La Rosa

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinAn essay by bestselling author Dorothy Allison, which serves as a foreword to Crooked Letter i, has won the attention of the Huffington Post. The essay frames a smart and moving anthology of LGBT stories about coming out in the South, edited by Connie Griffin and newly published by NewSouth Books. In recalling the days before “this new wondrous age with Supreme Court decisions affirming gay and lesbian marriage,” Allison reminds us of the courage it took to self-identify as LGBT.

“Confronting the enforced silence of manners and social expectations, we claimed our lives for ourselves. Was it heroic? Was it audacious, marvelous, scary and day by day painful? Of course. Did we change the world? Look around you and marvel.” Allison’s passionate and precisely observed essay serves as a resounding “amen” to the diverse contributions that shape Crooked Letter i, which has received early praise from Kevin Sessums, Bennett Singer, and others.

“In this remarkable collection of essays,” says Sessums, “these writers not only claim their rightful place in the landscape of letters but also the geography of juleps and cheese grits and our fundamentalist families.”

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.